WELCOME to our Eyecatchers column. Every week Alan Thomson pinpoints horses primed to strike in the next few weeks, if not days. Remember, you can add Alan's weekly updates to your ATR Tracker.
QEWY ATR Tracker
(Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, 10 March)
Came into the curtain-raiser on the back of an easy Newbury victory on soft ground but was never within hailing distance of Douvan. Settled well off the pace, Qewy was outpaced down the hill and although staying on steadily into fifth, this former John Oxx inmate (rated 107 at peak) appeared to find the drying track against him. John Ferguson will be hoping there's more juice in the ground if heading next to Aintree.
BLACKMAIL ATR Tracker
(Coral Cup, 11 March)
Tony Martin has plotted up the winner of this tough handicap in the past (Xenophon in 2003) but Blackmail was easy to back on the day. Never better than midfield, the first-time hooded Blackmail may well have bounced on his second start back from a 496-day absence. There remain relatively few miles on the clock and Blackmail can land a nice prize one of these days.
ZARIB ATR Tracker
(Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle, 11 March)
Arrived on scene two out, having made significant ground from the rear, and briefly struck the front at the final flight, having found himself tight for room at one stage. Zarib's exertions eventually took their toll and he faded into sixth behind Qualando. Dan Skelton's gelding had finished third to Peace And Co in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham in January, then hacked at Wincanton three weeks later, so the form was in the book. This was a good effort.
VIGIL ATR Tracker
(Weatherby's Champion Bumper, 11 March)
There was plenty of confidence behind Vigil after stablemate Windsor Park had landed the 'Neptune' the previous day. Always travelling comfortably, Vigil struck for home two out but, despite briefly hitting the front, he was soon outpaced in fifth. Softer ground would have suited Vigil and Dermot Weld will get the best out of him in due course.
OUTLANDER ATR Tracker
(Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle, 11 March)
Proved slightly disappointing by managing only a one-paced sixth to Windsor Park, having travelled strongly into the race two out. Perhaps Outlander needs a sterner test on a more demanding surface and the form of his earlier Grade 2 victory at Leopardstown could hardly have worked out better with the next three horses home, Martello Tower, Killultagh Vic and Windsor Park all winning at the festival, while fifth horse No More Heroes went down with all guns blazing. Gigginstown Stud possess an embarrassment of riches in this department and Outlander is near the top of the tree.
BROTHER BRIAN ATR Tracker
(Pertemps Network Final, 12 March)
Hughie Morrison's gelding, winner of a Kempton qualifier over 2m 5f, had never raced this far before and was just found wanting in that famous lung-bursting climb to the line. It paid to be handy most of the week and Brother Brian was strategically well positioned to hit the front rounding the home bend. However, the cavalry were in hot pursuit and he was swallowed up in sixth behind impressive winner Call The Cops. A fine effort nonetheless.
HOLLOW PENNY ATR Tracker
(Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate, 12 March)
Despite having chased home two useful types in Irish Saint and Southfield Theatre in a light campaign, Hollow Penny was sent off a largely unconsidered 33-1 shot. Alan King's seven-year-old certainly outrun those odds, staying on from midfield into fifth. A slight mistake three out didn't help Hollow Penny's cause and there should be more to come.
GUESS AGAIN ATR Tracker
(Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup, 12 March)
Having his first outing for Tony Martin at the age of 10, Guess Again was noted travelling well within himself until exiting at the 15th. His former trainer, David Pipe, saddled easy winner The Package but Guess Again could well have hit the frame, although that is scant consolation to the intrepid punter who struck a £10,000 to £300 ew wager on the rails. Guess Again, having his first start in 236 days, could still make his mark (fourth in last year's Summer Plate at Market Rasen) further down the line.
ON TOUR ATR Tracker
(Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle, 13 March)
Made an early error and raced behind a wall of horses throughout. On Tour was never going to make up the necessary ground to throw down a challenge and eventually trailed home in 12th spot. Evan Williams' seven-year-old is only 7lb higher than when beating useful Run Ructions Run on soft ground at Haydock in November and is almost certainly better than he showed here.
THE GAME CHANGER ATR Tracker
(Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle, 13 March)
Well-touted beforehand on his first run for Gordon Elliott following the retirement of Charlie Swan, The Game Changer moved up menacingly on the inside two out but seemed to flounder on the rain-softened ground, fading into ninth. Off for 159 days, The Game Changer may prove an entirely different proposition when encountering a sounder surface.
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